Maybe You're Part of the Problem

Another shooting.  More innocent people dead.  A shooter who was clearly racially motivated.

Although you can argue about how rare shooting like this are compared to the general population (as gun advocates are currently doing), is the attitude behind it all that rare?  Dylann Roof's racism didn't exist in a vacuum.  His beliefs had to come from somewhere.

We live in a society that feeds this type of feeling.  You argue that it's just a few wackos.  The extreme racists are in isolated groups and everyone thinks they're a bunch of kooks, right?  No one outside of the KKK takes the KKK seriously.  We have a black president for goodness sake.  Racism is dead among rational people.

I believe that it's not the kooks and the extremists and the weirdos we have to fear.  It's the ordinary people who think that because they never use the "n word" that they are enlightened and have no problem.

Let's talk about what racism is.  Racism isn't outright prejudice and discrimination - although racism feeds those feelings.  Racism isn't just spewing hate.  Racism is the institutionalized values and systems we have in place that we aren't even aware of.

Below is a quote from one of my previous posts about what defines racism.

What is racism?  Racism is that funny feeling white people have walking through black neighborhoods.  Racism is the lack of diversity in most popular culture outlets unless it's entertainment specifically aimed at black people.  Racism is the dog whistles media personalities use to demonize poor people such as "ghetto", "inner city", and "welfare queen".  Racism is black people consistently receiving far harsher punishments for the same crimes white people receive from our justice system.  Racism is police killing 21 times more black suspects than white suspects.  Racism is the divide we feel between blacks and white every day in the subtlest of ways.  For example, at my previous job, one of my best friends in the office was black man, but he and I almost never socialized outside the office other than going out to lunch during work hours.   Racism is moving your purse away when a black person is close to you.  Racism is the complete lack of respect President Obama receives from Americans and from the media - respect that is due the office of the President of the United States.  Racism is the president receiving more death threats daily than any other president in history.

Are you constantly making "birther"jokes or even buying into those conspiracy theories (or at least hoping they might be true)?  Do you say, "I don't hate the president because he's black, I hate him because he's a terrible president," but when pressed for reasons why he's so terrible, all you can say is "He's a communist," and not really offer any viable facts and figures to support your argument?  Then you are likely part of the problem.

When a black suspect dies at the hands of police brutality, do you find yourself looking for reasons why it happened?  Do you nod and smile with relief when Fox News tells you the victim was a "thug" or that he was "no angel"?  Do you find yourself agreeing that the violence was justified because the victim had something of a criminal record?  How would you feel if that was your child?  Are you white?  When you were a teen, did you do any underage drinking, buy cigarettes illegally, smoke pot, trespass, or lift a small item from the candy store?  If you are the parent of a white teen, was your teen ever caught committing any of these crimes?  What is the difference between you (or your teen) and a black police shooting victim?  My guess is you either weren't caught, or if you were caught, you probably got nothing more than a stern talking to from your parents and the police.  If you somehow thing police shooting deaths are somehow different, and that you are really looking for ways to devalue another's life, then you are part of the problem.

When you complain about your taxes or worry about the financial status of the country, so you blame the social safety nets?  More to the point, when you are criticizing society's leeches, what images come to mind?  Do you blame the people in the "inner city"the "ghetto" the "welfare queens" or the "blah people"?  Then you are part of the problem.

Do you ever preface a sentence with the phrase, "I'm not a racist but..." because you think saying something horrible can somehow be made acceptable by simply declaring you yourself are not a racist?  Then you are part of the problem.

It's not just the white supremacists, the overt racists, the pandering politicians, or the Quiverfull breeders trying to put more white children on the planet who are racially polarizing this country.  It's the subtle, institutional racism that we are all part of, or complicit in.   It's the way white society still can't see blacks as equal, or see their lives as having equal value.  It how we look the other way when we see how the marginalized are dealt with.  It is the fact that some of us do express outrage when these incidents happen, but move on with our lives shortly after.

So what are we going to do now?  Will we find a way to make a change, or will we continue to be part of the problem?


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